The Mountains of Arizona •
Peak 5389 • Mule Mountains
• Cochise County

The highpoint is slightly right of center along the top ridge

Nearing the top ridge on the steep track

The track on the ridge now

Not the summit yet

There's the summit

Solar panels and a simple antenna at the top. In back is Black Knob, looking left is Gold Hill

View east of the cliffy escarpment on the nearby lower ridge

Southwest, Cerro San Jose in Mexican snow

That nearby peak is Cerro La Muela in Mexico. The border wall is easily seen here

Look down at the track. In the distance is the city of Douglas and the bigger city of Agua Prieta in Mexico. In back left of center is the College Peaks, slightly right of center is the Perilla Peak group. For reference, that knobby bump to Perrilla's right is barely inside Mexico

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The Arizona
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Date: January 25, 2024 • Elevation: 5,389 feet • Prominence: 689 feet • Distance: 3.4 miles • Time: 1 hour & 40 minutes and then another 30 minute talking-to • Gain: 950 feet • Conditions: Cloudy, cool but not cold


Peak 5389 lies at the extreme southeast tip of the Mule Mountains, the summit about two miles north of the Mexican border. It does not have a name as far as I know. Only one mine was ever developed here, the Marquette Mine, on the mountain's southwest slopes. It ran briefly during the 1910s and again in the 1950s but was never productive.

This mountain is notable for an impressive escarpment-cliff on one of its lower summits. If driving west on AZ-80 from Douglas towards Bisbee, this is the first bigger peak one sees (not counting a smattering of smaller hills), and the scarp is plainly obvious on the peak's northern portion. From below, it looks like it may be the highest point, but a ridge point nearby is about a hundred feet higher.

The past few days have been cold and rainy, and the system only cleared out late Tuesday, two days ago. Yesterday, Wednesday, was cloudy and cool. For my exercise, I walked some of the big stairways in Bisbee, about 400 steps worth. Today, I had some morning duties, but wanted to get out for a quick local hike, not wanting to drive far.

In studying ways to get close to this peak, I looked at the satellite images of the roads that lie west of AZ-80 and below the peaks. There is a small grid of decent dirt roads to the northeast of the peak. My land-use map showed this to be private. But the land to the south and the peak itself were on State Trust and BLM lands.

So I left my abode and ten minutes later exited onto these good roads. Signs at the start said the roads were private. I continued anyway, and about two miles of driving put me past this private portion and onto a State Trust section. I won't go into detail what actual roads I took nor what turns I made. I just followed what looked to be the most maintained roads. I eventually got myself onto a thinner track that looked to be an access road to some gas lines through here. I parked off the road, time about 12:40 p.m..

My route was an old track that the satellite images showed got onto the peak's high ridge and ended just below the summit. The road I was on now went south and should connect to this track. I packed light, wearing a fleece jacket where I stuffed my wallet, phone, keys and drinks into the pockets. I did not carry a pack. The day was cool, in the low 50s, but not chilly. It was cloudy still and noticeably humid.

I walked the track south about a half mile, then found the lesser track I wanted. It aimed west, uphill toward the peak. This track was narrow and rocky but with a mostly-good tread. It meandered upward a little, then dropped into a drainage and steeply up the opposite side. Here, it splits, a right going to some old mine diggings. I went left.

The track steepened and for the last 300 or so feet to the top ridge, was very steep and tiring, but not difficult. This track would be too much for most vehicles. Only a small ATV might handle it. It was mostly smooth, but steep and loose, gradients in the 30-40% range. Brush grew up to the sides and some in the tread. I saw no hints of past visitors, no tracks, no trash, nothing. What few visitors who come here are the Mexican crossers. I saw some abandoned clothing items, but not much else.

The track finally gained the high ridge, then turned north. It went up one bump then ended. Ahead was another bump, which I thought to be the summit, until I surmounted it only to see the actual highpoint hill ahead. I was on top fairly quickly, about an hour-long hike covering 1.7 miles, gaining about 950 feet. Only the last hundred feet after the road required any thinking. The terrain was rocky forming into small tiers. I never scrambled, but I had to step high a few times. Ocotillo grew thick on the ridge, and I was now exposed to a cold breeze.

The top features a small rock pile and some solar panels that power a simple antenna, I assume here for the Border Patrol and Sheriff. The views were rather good: the Mule Mountains to the north and west, big Cerro San Jose covered in snow over the line in Mexico to the southwest. To the south was Cerro La Muela ("The Molar") in Mexico. East, I had a fine view of that cliff-scarp, plus peaks way to the east, and the cities of Douglas and Agua Prieta.

Surprisingly, I found a register. It was an old one, and stuffed full of papers, mostly unreadable. I could tell it was likely one of Bob Martin's, by some of the slips of paper he used. Most of the paper therein was wet, crumbly, or black with mold. I half-assed signed myself in, knowing full well no one will ever be able to read it. I did not spend long, maybe 5 minutes.

The downhill hike was easy, but I had to step slowly on the steep parts of the track. Rocks came up easily in the wet tread. But the outbound hike only took about 35 minutes, and I was back to my car at 2:15 p.m.. I didn't change. I just turned the key over and started the drive out. I retraced my driving route.

While on that private section, a guy in a Polaris honked at me to pull over, so I did. He got out and explained that this was private, which I knew. He was nice, probably sizing me up. I knew better than to put up any defense. I knew I was on private land and expected him to tell me to get lost.

My meager explanation was that there was no gates to stop me and I wanted to access the State Land beyond it, even showing him my permit. He explained that the homeowners here pay for the upkeep and assume the liability. Suddenly, I felt like a heel and apologized sincerely. He was not unpleasant at all, actually quite friendly with lots of suggestions where to visit. His explanations made sense. He does not mind hikers or hunters per se, but pointed out that it's a cost and liability thing.

He pointed out an all State-Trust route that one could take to access the State Trust section. It starts farther south on AZ-80, but is not a good road in places, with washouts. Later, when studying the satellite images, I could see a couple spots where the road is obviously degraded. However, in retrospect, had I known more about what I just learned from this fellow, I would have taken that longer route just described. My car probably would not handle the washouts, but a higher-clearance vehicle might. Even so, it would have added maybe two or three miles to the hike, which I would gladly do knowing it was all legal land (with a permit).

The guy and I ended up chatting for a half hour, and he was not upset at all. I did not get a bad vibe from him whatsoever. I told him I'd probably never be on these roads again, certainly now knowing better. He told me of some of the landowners. Apparently one of the Buffetts owns land in the area. He gave me some of the history too, which I always enjoy. Overall, I learned a lot from this guy, and was happy to meet him, although it was because I was technically an outlaw that he pulled me over.

I finally was on my way and home about fifteen minutes later, slowed by a pokey on the highway with no chance to pass. I showered and did a grocery run, then got back to being productive.

To summarize, should anyone want to hike this peak: do NOT follow the "good" roads from the northeast. Ignore what the satellite images show. Instead, go south and take a track that begins just south of a low hill. Depending on the vehicle, you may get in all the way, or a half mile. But at least it's legal as long as you have your permit.

(c) 2024 Scott Surgent. For entertainment purposes only. This report is not meant to replace maps, compass, gps and other common sense hiking/navigation items. Neither I nor the webhost can be held responsible for unfortunate situations that may arise based on these trip reports. Conditions (physical and legal) change over time! Some of these hikes are major mountaineering or backpacking endeavors that require skill, proper gear, proper fitness and general experience.